Baseline to Baseline recaps: One half of Heat bests half of Spurs

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What you missed while buying the paintings of a squirrel

Heat 120, Spurs 98: It was a tale of two halves. In the first half the Spurs controlled the tempo and forced the heat into the half court. LeBron James, fighting a cold that might have kept him home if Dwyane Wade could have played, was sloppy. Not just missed shots but slowed and bad decisions — where he normally attacks he hesitated. San Antonio shot 67 percent in the first quarter and were up 14 at the half.

And then it flipped. Miami stepped up its defensive pressure and the Spurs offense stalled. Then the Heat turned those stops in to fast break opportunities. Then LeBron James’ jumper started falling — he knocked down three from beyond the arc and outscored the Spurs 17 to 10 that quarter. The Spurs shot 34.4 percent in the second half. LeBron had 33 points and looked like his old self, Chris Bosh had 30.

There are still questions for the Heat about the severity of Wade’s injury and late game execution, but when they overwhelm a team it is an impressive site.

Magic 96, Bobcats 89: Charlotte hung in this one — they were up three at the break and it was tied heading into the fourth — as the Bobcats didn’t double Dwight Howard and stuck with guys on the perimeter, and Orlando could only knock down 31.8 percent of its threes (Howard’s foul trouble didn’t help). Orlando needs those threes. It eventually got them. While Dwight Howard led the way with 25 points on the night it was Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Von Wafer — yes, Von Wafer — who each had 8 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic pull away.

Warriors 105, Cavaliers 95: The Cleveland Cavaliers turned the ball over on 25 of their 101 possessions — essentially one in four trips down the court they coughed it up without a shot. Hard to win games that way. Very hard. Kyrie Irving showed flashes of quality play but he had six turnovers. Antwan Jamison led a third quarter charge by the Cavs with his dozen, but he could not cover David Le, who had 29, 13 of them in the fourth quarter when the Cavs pulled away. Anderson Varejao had no answers for Lee either, who pulled out a few good post moves to put the game away. As an aside, this was an “on” night for Nate Robinson who had 17 points and 10 dimes.

Nuggets 105, Bucks 95: The Bucks can lose at home. Denver pretty much controlled this one from the start and only a big fourth quarter run by Milwaukee made it this close. Denver attacked from the start and got to the line 37 times on the night (23 more free throws than Milwaukee). The Bucks got 30 from Brandon Jennings but Stephen Jackson and Andrew Bogut combined to shoot 1-of-11.

Rockets 97, Pistons 80: I’m not sure the Rockets were good so much as just less bad. The attacked and moved the ball and shot 49 percent. The Pistons were more passive (their first free throw didn’t come until midway through the third quarter). Tayshaun Prince had 20 but the Rockets had six guys in double figures — balance won out.

Bulls 118, Suns 97: Derrick Rose was out again and Steve Nash tried to take advantage with 13 points in the first quarter as he and the Suns tried to pick up the tempo. But the Bulls just ground the Suns down (while shooting 69 percent early themselves). The Suns shot 37 percent in the second quarter while Carlos Boozer got hot (26 in the first half, 31 for the game) and it was over. Chicago pulled away and never looked back.

Jazz 108, Clippers 79: The Clippers were on the second night of a road back-to-back without Chris Paul or Mo Williams — this set up well for the Clippers to fall flat, and they didn’t disappoints. Credit the Jazz for taking advantage of this and blowing the Clippers out, taking charge early with an 11-0 run and just stretching it out most of the rest of the game. The Clippers starters sat the fourth. Paul Millsap had 20 for Utah. Not much to take away from this other than another a win the Jazz will add to the collection.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets:

Deandre Ayton misses coronavirus test, arrives late to underway Suns-Thunder game

Suns center Deandre Ayton
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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Another testing issue for Deandre Ayton.

This one comes at a terrible time for the Suns.

Phoenix is trying to complete a longshot run to the playoffs and playing the Thunder in a key game today. But Ayton arrived late to the arena after missing a coronavirus test yesterday.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like many Suns, Ayton has played well in the resumption. Phoenix doesn’t have another big-man option like him, especially with Aron Baynes sidelined. The Suns started Dario Saric in a small lineup today.

Ayton arrived to the arena and is warming up on an exercise bike. He could still get into the game and make a difference.

Already locked into the 4-6 range in the Western Conference and perhaps trying to keep its top-20-protected first-round pick, Oklahoma City is playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder. None of those will players will make a late entrance into the game.

Also: It’s ridiculous this wasn’t publicly disclosed sooner. The NBA continues to tout transparency while trying to draw more gambling revenue. Yet, a major lineup issue like this remains secret? That opens the door for some bettors to get inside information, which would be so damaging to the league’s integrity.

Kings now sole owners of second-longest playoff drought in NBA history

Sacramento Kings
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The Kings’ 2018-19 season ended with optimism.

Facing a meager over/under of 25.5 wins, Sacramento surged to 39 wins – its best record in 13 years. Under Dave Joerger, the Kings played a fast and fun style. De'Aaron Fox made historic improvements. Buddy Hield broke out. Several other young players showed promise.

Sure, the Kings missed the playoffs for a 13th straight season – matching the second-longest playoff drought in NBA history. But they were on track to end the skid soon enough.

Except, of course that’s not how it went in Sacramento.

The Kings were eliminated from the postseason chase yesterday, ensuring a 14th straight season outside the playoffs. That alone is now NBA’s the second-longest-ever postseason drought, breaking a tie with the Timberwolves (2005-17). Only the Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers’ 15-year non-playoff streak (1977-91) is longer.

Here are the longest postseason droughts in NBA history:

The Suns could still reach 10 straight years outside the playoffs, but they’re still in the race this season.

The Kings might not be far from climbing this list, either.

Their future looks far bleaker than a year ago. Sacramento fired Joerger to hire Luke Walton, who has underwhelmed. Buddy Hield signed a lucrative contract extension then had a rough season. Fox progressed, though he didn’t make the desired leap into stardom. Other young players had ups and downs. Luka Doncic casts an even larger shadow from Dallas. The Kings’ organizational turmoil continues.

This was a feel-bad season in Sacramento, anyway. All the preceding losing only adds to the misery.

The Kings enter next season with one last chance to avoid the longest playoff drought in NBA history, and they do have a chance. But there’s only pessimism now.